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Many people know that blood is often used in accident and emergency situations, but more than 60 per cent of blood is used for non-surgical treatment, which includes treating cancers and other blood disorders. Very rarely is whole blood used anymore except for instances of extreme blood loss, now however with improved and pioneering technology, the blood is broken down into cells and platelets. It is used in the treatment of all kinds of anaemia which can't be medically corrected, such as rheumatoid arthritis or cancer, or when red cells break down in sickle cell disease. They're also essential to replace lost red cells due to blood loss in accidents, during surgery and after childbirth. With around 6,100 blood donations needed by hospitals in England and North Wales every day, Blood Donor Day will highlight the need to encourage both new and returning donors to make a date to roll up their sleeve and donate. But currently only four per cent of the eligible population are active blood donors. What happens when giving blood? Giving blood should take around an hour from the time of your appointment to completing your donation. Before donating blood, you need to eat regular meals, drink plenty of fluid (non-alcoholic) and avoid vigorous exercise or exertion. When you attend your donation session you will be asked to read the welcome leaflet provided. You will be called for a private health screening, where a donor carer will confirm your identity. The donor carer must ensure that it's safe for you to donate and your donation is safe for a patient to receive; they will do this by asking some confidential questions based on your completed Donor Health Check. Blood bags and sample tubes are labelled with unique donor identification numbers. All collection equipment is single use and sterile; only one blood bag is filled with your donation. A blood pressure cuff will be placed on your arm to maintain a small amount of pressure during the donation. The cuff is not used to measure blood pressure. Your arm will be thoroughly examined to find a suitable vein before being cleaned with an antiseptic sponge. The nurse will take one unit of blood from either your right or left arm; one unit is measured as 470mls (or just under a pint). After the donation, a selection of drinks and snacks are available at the refreshment table where donors are encouraged to relax for at least 15 minutes and to have a minimum of two drinks. Female whole blood donors can give blood every 16 weeks, while male blood donors can donate every 12 weeks and platelets can be donated every 2 weeks. To see the eligibility criteria and to find your local donation centre visit www.blood.co.uk
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